Feminism Reflects Christ Better Than Does Fundamentalism

I grew up Fundamentalist, and in my circle, feminists were bashed as man-haring rebels against God’s Divine Order. However, over the past couple of years, I have read feminist blogs and interacted with feminists on said blogs and on Twitter. As a result of all this, I have concluded that the teachings of Jesus are better reflected in feminism than they are in Fundamentalism. Let me explain how.

Let’s start with a popular definition of feminism: the radical idea that women are people too. We find this idea reflected in the Bible, back to Genesis: “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”(Gen. 1:27), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal. 3:28)

This belief in women’s being human motivates feminists to insist on autonomy, boumdaries, and consent in human interactions, and that corercion should be avoided. This consent must be informed, and is considered invalid if obtained by deception. Well, this is integrity par excellence, and integrity is a value everywhere in Scripture. Also, it is written, “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Lev. 19:18). This respecting other people’s boundaries and acknowledging their autonomy is a integral part of showing concern for others, allowing us to have what Martin Buber describes as an I-thou relationship(approaching them as people) rather than an I-it one(approaching them as objects). Also, Erich Fromm mentions that a healthy self-love and others-love are interrelated. Setting our own boundaries is an expression of that healthy self-love. 

By contrast, autonomy, boundaries, and consent are sorely lacking in Fundamentalist circles. Despite the scriptural injunction, “But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness — or distorting the Word of God”(2 Cor. 4:2a), Fundamentalists are infamous for their lack of honesty and alternative facts, calling it all “The Truth[TM]”. They apply Philippians 2:4-11 to the populace, but the leaders act more in line with the boast attributed to Lucifer in Is. 14:13-14

They love Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, using it to justify misogyny. However, some ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word translated “submit”, in which the verse reads, “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.” This means the verse is a continuation of v. 21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”(emphasis mine). Also, in Greek, the word for “submit” has a meaning of its being voluntary, which requires consent. Fundamentalists tends to not get consent, and prefer coercion. They sometimes reference Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her”; however, this often is used as a means of promoting paternalism.

Christian feminists are not opposed to submission per se, but only opposed to it when it is one way, and/or the burden is placed solely on women. As we saw from the quote in Eph. 5:21, this is a biblical criticism. This is in agreement with what Jesus Himself says, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called ‘benefactors’. Not so with you; instead, the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.”(Luke 22:25-26). But demanding that their followers submit to them and that wives submit to their husbands, these leaders are “lording it over” them. Also, treating people in a paternalistic way, justifying control because it’s for “their own good”, is NOT an example of being a servant; it is still “lording it over” them. 

Another way in which feminism reflects the character of Christ can be seen by comparing the depictions of Babylon and the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. First, it is written about Babylon, “The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her, along with the blood of all those who had been killed in the earth”(Rev. 18:24). Next, onto what it says about the New Jerusalem, “The kings of the earth will bring their grandeur to it”(Rev. 21:24b). Throughout Revelation “the kings of the earth” refers to humanity in rebellion against God, and the passage indicates their redemption, rather than their destruction.

Fundamentalism damages even its own. There are countless spiritual abuse survivor blogs out there, with this list being just a few, and many people raised Fundamentalist go through religious trauma. There is widespread silence on abuse in Fundamentalism, and encouragement of women to stay in abusive marriages. 

Feminism is opposed to abuse. This is reflective of the heart of Christ because the Bible depicts God as hearing the cry of the oppressed. Feminists teach that your pain matters, and that oppressing others is wrong. This is why they support autonomy, boundaries, and consent, since abusers tend to ignore these things. Feminism concerns itself with ending the oppression of women. However, I, though a cisman(a biological male identifying as male), have benefited from these ideas. The church I grew up in did not teach boundaries and consent; so upon reading feminists online, I realized I could set boundaries for myself! Pick-up artists tend to be extremely unpopular in feminist circles, due to their being notorious for not respecting women’s boundaries or accepting “No”. However, in her book Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser, Clarisse Thorn mentions a PUA who actually benefited from feminist ideals and used them for himself. Also, feminists insist that the boundaries of even jerks and abusers need to be respected, and that one can only do what is needed to protect oneself and others. This is a good example of Christ’s command to love one’s enemies. 

So, while Fundamentalists decry feminists, and accuse the latter of destroying God’s order of things, and even of being an Illuminati plot to destroy the family, when you look at the Bible it seems that the spirit of the law is better reflected in feminism than in Fundamentalism.

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God’s Hosts/Guests (originally by James Woody; translation mine)

Today I am doing another translation; this time a sermon by James Woody (a Protestant pastor in Montpellier) called “Les Hôtes de Dieu”(original in link). Now, for Pastor Woody.

Hebrews 13:1-3
“1)Persevere in brotherly love.

2)Don’t forget hospitality; for, while exercising it, some have welcomed angels without knowing it. 3) Remember prisoners, as if you were also prisoners; and those who are mistreated, as if you yourselves were in a body.”

“Some, without knowing it, have welcomed angels”, as a result of the hospitality which they showed. Without knowing it…in other words, while being unaware, without knowing anything in particular, without dominating the events, without controlling precisely who was arriving, without following a church project to the letter. In an unexpected manner, some welcomed angels.
DON’T DOMINATE

To not dominate the entirety of events is to allow those whom we meet the liberty to be themselves and to be bearers of differences that could enrich us. Even better, to not dominate from beginning to end those who arrive in the course of the meeting  a discussion, or an interview, is to accept change in contact with the Other, and to not impose limits on reading and interviews, a predetermined  order of required passages. There’s no divine liturgy in the sense of mechanics of the sacred that, without fail, bring in the presence of God.

To not dominate is to not presume who will arrive to a dialogue, a meal, or a walk. It is, in the case of a dialogue, to not know how one will respond before our interlocutor has finished responding.

THE AMBIGUITY OF “HÔTES” 

The word “hospitality” comes from the French word “hospitalité”,  which gives the French language the word “hôte”, used in the French title of this piece and charged with a delicious ambiguity. The word “hôte” leaves us unaware; meaning that when we say “hôte”, we don’t know in advance who welcomes and who is welcomed. To be l’hôte (host, guest) of God could be welcomed by God, or whoever is welcomed, to welcome him. This uncertainty is sweet, because it indicates that we welcome each other, that we never know very well who welcomes, and who is welcomed. This indicated that welcoming is an affair that both enjoy.

Without knowing it, some who thought they were welcoming had been welcomed by those much greater, as a result of the hospitality that they manifested. They were simply available, open, and welcoming of the events that presented themselves. They were opportunists in the sense that they were prepared to take hold of the opportunites that life offered them.

To tell the truth, the Greek text speaks of “philoxénia”, the inverse of xenophobia: the love of foreignness, the love of the foreigner/stranger [“L’ Étranger” can mean both], neaning that the invitation made is to appreciate whoever arrives and not to consider him a priori to be a threat.

DIACONIAN WORSHIP

Some people, thinking to offer a meal, ended up at worship; for worship isn’t only Thursday at noon and Sunday morning. Worship is each time we live hosting the life that the Gospel speaks of, each time we have the desire to embody the Gospel, to be the living word of God in Jesus Christ.

Worship is each time we’re a soul; that is, when we are host of life, capable of welcoming opportunities; and guests of life, ready to be taken by that which life proposes to us, by the projects that are developed, by the adventures that are conceived. Worship is each time we’re a soul in the sense where our personality gets up and grows in the view of the Other, in interaction with whoever introduces himself and enlarges our horizon as much as he deepens our understanding of the world. Worship is each time we are a soul, that we are deeply moved by the world that knocks on the door of our personal story, and to which we extend a nice welcome, unless it be the world that welcome us.

Remembering those in prison, as the letter to the Hebrews invites us to do, is to be host to those that society judges less worthy, the outcasts, those from whom one wants to protect him/herself. The church responds to its call when it is host to those wothout rank, those of ill repute, the importune, and even the guilty. According to the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The church is only really itself when it is the church for others.” The church is the host of the world, welcoming people into intimacy with God; and guest of the world, in making itself at home on the concerns of its contemporaries.

We could call this “diaconian worship”: the service rendered to those we welcome and who welcome us, a service giving meaning to the living, in the manner of the angels that guide, that consists of strengthening brotherhood and developing gestures of solidarity. We all get enjoyment when we help each other.

“Hospitality” is, perhaps, a term that we could have in mind to give the assembly of church life an intensity rising to the heights at which the Gospel invites us to live: to make our church a place to be the hosts and guests of God.

Thoughts on Jacob (Bible Character)

I was reading this post on parashah vayeitzei (Gen. 28:10-32:3)* and could relate to the thoughts on the second post. Thus, these are the thoughts I’ll share here:

I relate specifically to the mention of Jacob’s relating to something bigger. I had this experience over a decade ago when I read MLK’s Strength to Love, the Advent/Lent devotionals of Fr. Joseph Donders (Becoming an Advent People and Scripture Reflections For Lent, respectively), upon a reading of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, and listening to Rob Bell’s stuff (I  love his books Jesus Wants to Save Christians and Velvet Elvis, particularly his claim that the Bible is true because it happens.) There were other sources as well that exposed me to social justice types of things. These resources inspired me, gave me a sense of making the world a better place; I wanted to join an antiwar protest in a foreign capital (this was the Bush years); I wanted to promote understanding among nations. 

Later, Jacob encountered Laban, who cheated him repeatedly. For me, like with Jacob, I did work at the church. Later I got hired by people at church for next to nothing, which continued for years. Also, due to various circumstances, my sources of information dried up, and my church buckled down on insularity. I consider this my Laban period, as I began to question myself, and wonder whether or not this was all just a pipe dream I had, and I lost my vision. 

However, like the post I reference says, there were cracks of light: once, on my lunch break, I was reading Isaiah 59 and I started weeping. (For starters, I don’t cry easily; secondly, I work in construction, so this is an extremely embarrassing time for this to happen!) “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him

    that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
    and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm brought him victory,
    and his righteousness upheld him.”(Is. 59:15b-16)

I said to myself, “Not on my watch!” It was like God was saying, “Will you stand, even when no one else does?” I replied, “Yes; here am I, send me!”

However, with all the conspiracy stuff(including labeling “social justice as an Illuminati plot to get Christians into a One World Government), insularity, control, and everything else, all these dreams got buried. However, when my friends and I started openly questioning dogma, a friend said he had lost his vision. I realized I had as well, and started looking again at the books I had read years back to regain it, and I remembered things I hadn’t thought in years. Later my interests were further rekindled through interactions online.

Now, I am at the point in which, like Jacob, I’m planning on leaving Laban, going to school. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about Jacob’s wrestling with God(probably because I find it relevant as a doubter). I see myself, as I interact with a variety of people and leave my bubble, as wrestling with God, as beliefs turn out to be inadequate and I see things more clearly. 

This is how I see the story of Jacob happening in my life.
*I’m not actally Jewish, though I find inspiration in a variety of belief systems. Anyway, the Jews divide the Torah, or first five books of the Bible, into fifty-four sections called parashot (parashah, singular), one (sometimes two) of which are read every Shabbat (Sabbath) in the synagogue.